Quite a few posts back, we wrote about some of the various sports, exercises, and activities that are popular in Taiwan. One of the sports he mentioned was mixed martial arts, or MMA.
I was lucky enough to have recently been contacted by the head instructor at a brand new MMA gym located in Banciao.
Studying, Competing in, and Opening an MMA Gym in Taiwan
Eliot Corley of Shuraba MMA, who I have personally seen fight a couple of times at events that were held at the recently closed Luxy, was kind enough to answer a few questions about his new gym and the state of MMA in Taiwan.
Without further adieu, here is the interview with Eliot:
How long have you been interested in martial arts?
I was visiting my grandparents house in prehistoric ’96 when my uncle brought over a Bruce Lee movie. The desire for invincibility sparked my interest in martial arts almost two decades ago. Of course my reasons for sticking with it are drastically different now, but the spark that starts the conflagration is significant indeed.
From the beginning, did you focus on MMA, or something else?
No, I was obsessed with the idea of mystical superpowers and the ability to fly in the air while demolishing opponents—the typical thing boys who are into this stuff dream of. I only found out about MMA when I went to college and only started practicing it at the end of 2008 with Gordon Preston at Evolution Combat here in Taiwan.
When I first decided to learn martial arts, I started looking for a Ninjutsu school, but ended up finding a Korean version of Shaolin kung fu called So Rim kung fu (totally legit, I thought). There weren’t many options in suburban Colorado in those days. Since then I also tried Karate, Aikido and some Wing Chun, but never practiced any of it as seriously as I practiced So Rim.
What drew you into MMA and have you competed at a professional level?
I was rudely awoken from my dream of being a real-life kung fu movie character by a dude who was skinnier, weaker and had no kung fu background. That’s what drew me into MMA. I discovered the utility of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
I was a bit shy of 80kg and met a 65kg gentleman by the name of Rama in mid-2008. He was looking for someone to practice BJJ with and said he was only a blue belt (the one right after white belt), so I thought I could totally handle him when sparring. But quite the contrary, he submitted me somewhere in the vicinity of 5 times within 5 minutes. That’s when I started to believe BJJ was where it was at.
Then I met another guy in early 2009, Tex, who showed me that without striking, BJJ is only a ‘partial art’ not a ‘martial art’—he gently showed me this by punching me in the face and liver, repeatedly during practices.
My first coach, Gordon, had a strong wrestling background and always liked to do takedowns at his gym, so that’s how I was introduced to all the basic elements of MMA: striking, takedowns and submission wrestling.
I’ve competed in MMA on several occasions, 3 times in PRO FC (there’s an event coming up for that on May 9th, so be sure to check that out) and in ONE FC on their only card to take place here in Taiwan.
But, my first fight happened in the now defunct Tough promotion back in 2010 with local Taiwanese fighter, Frogman Zhang Zheng-Jie. This fight was an eye-opener for the importance of cardio training in competition.
My most recent fight was in ONE FC where I was a last-minute replacement for the very same Zhang Zheng-Jie I faced in my first bout—at this point we had become teammates. Besides that, I’ve done a lot of grappling and striking competitions locally and internationally.
I think most people would agree that Japan was a big part of the birth of what we now know as MMA. What do you think about the state of MMA in Asia? How about in Taiwan?
The Japanese have always had a great interest in combat sports in general. Shows like Pride really helped popularize the sport of MMA in the region.
As for the state of MMA in Asia, well I think it’s growing. Big time shows put on by ONE FC seem to corroborate this sentiment.
Locally, Pacific Rim Organized Fighting Championship (PRO FC) seems to be the only game in town because the market is still nascent. But they are expanding as well: all shows used to be held in Luxy, but the one on May 9th will be held at the Taipei Gymnasium (next to Taipei Arena) and has a much larger scale than all the previous shows (there’s even going to be a title fight for the first time).
Star Sports airs UFC events; local Taiwanese talent is participating in international shows like UFC and ONE FC. All of this seems to indicate a trend of growth.
So, you’re opening an MMA gym in Taiwan. What made you want to start your own gym?
I’m an avid learner and have developed certain methods to facilitate skill acquisition. I have translated this into a system where I can teach people how to look at fighting as a set of problems all of which can be readily solved with the right tools. The challenge is then to teach the people what the tools are and when to use them.
The ultimate goal is to build fighters who can think for themselves and come up with unique solutions to the unique problems they face (no two fighters are identical) using these principles. My goal is not to teach people a style, but to get them the tools to build their own.
I never had the freedom at any other gym to implement this kind of system, so I had to open my own gym.
What does Shuraba mean?
This is for Japanese comic book nerds. It’s a reference to the trials that badasses have fought through on their way to becoming badasses.
Shuraba is the site of an ancient battle between the Asura and the Deva in Indian mythology. The Asura are typically depicted as demonic, fight-lusting beings; however, originally they were much more nuanced. Several were wise and not swayed by passions as they are often said to be.
I like it because it reminds us of several things:
- the path to mastery is difficult and treacherous
- there is always the danger of straying from the path and falling into depravity (e.g., Mike Tyson, Jon Jones, etc.)
- some people are not as they seem
- martial arts learning should be fun. This is a very meaningful name to me and I spent the better part of 3 years deciding on it
Will you focus only on MMA, or have various classes like jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai?
We teach striking, submission wrestling and MMA classes as well as Kali classes.
The skills are all inter-related, but it’s good to divide them into several modular units. This way people can come to submission wrestling if they’re already confident in their striking skills, or come for striking classes if they’re already confident in their ground skills.
Kali is provided to round the students out and to make them more complete fighters; it’s also offered for the self-defense aspect. MMA is a sport and we often make fight decisions based on rules. Kali reminds us that if our life is on the line, then the rules change or disappear altogether.
In essence, there’s something for everyone interested in martial arts.
Will you focus on beginners or advanced students, or have a mix? How about kids?
There will definitely be a mix and we happen to be starting a kids class in April. Beginners are certainly a focus, as everyone starts as one. However, there is certainly a lot that advanced students can get from training here as well.
What language will the classes be held in?
All the instructors can speak English and Chinese. So the classes will be bilingual.
What do you hope happens in regards to MMA in Taiwan in the future?
As a gym owner, I certainly hope it grows! But more importantly as a martial artist, I hope people can learn to enjoy this sport as much as I do! Thanks!
Make Sure to Check out Shuraba MMA
If you’re into MMA, BJJ, or totally new and just want to see what it’s all about, make sure to stop by Eliot’s new gym in Banciao.
You can find it here:
Shuraba MMA 修羅場綜合武術